Police reaching out to kids with car | September 12, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Newsfront - September 12, 2008

Police reaching out to kids with car

Town adds cool squad car, new school coordinator

by Geoff Gillette

Back in the mid-'80s when the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program was first beginning, police officials would arrive on school campuses driving tricked out D.A.R.E. squad cars that were sure to bring the kids running from all four corners of the playground. Danville Police Chief Chris Wenzel is looking to create that kind of buzz again.

Last week Danville police unveiled their brand new Youth Police Vehicle, a customized Ford Mustang GT. The Mustang comes with standard police equipment like a siren, light bar and radio. But it also comes with a full audio visual array hidden in the trunk.

Controls put into the car by Autohaus not only allow officers to remotely start the car and open the trunk, they can pop up a flat screen monitor that can be hooked into a DVD player or laptop for videos or powerpoint presentations.

"We're excited and proud and lucky to have this piece of equipment," said Wenzel, noting that of all the amazing things about the new vehicle, he is most pleased about the fact it was donated.

The car came from a single donation from Maddie's Fund, a family foundation established by PeopleSoft and Workday Founder Dave Duffield and his wife Cheryl, named for the couple's beloved schnauzer.

"The idea with this program is to use it (the car) as a training tool," Wenzel said. "Get the 'wow' effect, then teach them about safety issues."

Even with all the new gadgetry, the vehicle can't drive itself to the area schools. That will be the job of the department's new school program coordinator, Christina Sally.

Sally, a retired police officer with more than 15 years in law enforcement, is joining the Police Department as a civilian employee. Her qualifications include time as a D.A.R.E. officer and trainer, youth and family services counselor, and an education specialist.

She will be responsible for going to the schools, getting to know the staff, and working with the children on safety. The Police Department currently has one school resource officer, Jeff Phelps, who is assigned to San Ramon High School.

"This job … gives me the chance to be at the schools full time," said Sally. "To be a liaison between the community and the police."

She said that making the position a civilian one means she can focus full time on working with children and teaching them to be safe on the streets and on their computers.

"There are so many more things facing kids today than when we were growing up," she said. "Internet safety is one of the things we'll really be looking at."

Sally intends to meet with each school's staff to determine how best she can be used at each location.